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Catholics must fast and abstain from meat this Valentine’s Day, archdiocese confirms

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Catholics are obliged to practice fasting and abstinence on St Valentine’s Day this year as Ash Wednesday also falls on the same day, an archdiocese has confirmed.

The Archdiocese of Chicago said it had received enquiries on whether Catholics could have a dispensation from their Ash Wednesday obligations so they could mark the “largely secular celebration of Valentine’s Day”.

However, the archdiocese responded that, as Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, “the obligation of fast and abstinence must naturally be the priority of the Catholic community.”

“Catholics throughout the world recognise Ash Wednesday as the solemn beginning of a period of prayerful reflection and penance, as is evident by the large number of church goers on this day,” the archdiocese explained in a statement.

They suggested that Catholics who still wish to celebrate Valentine’s Day could do so the day before on Shrove Tuesday – or Madri Gras – “a traditionally festive time before beginning our Lenten observance.”

Under Church rules, every Catholic in good health aged 18 to 59 must fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday. They may eat one full meal, supplemented by two smaller meals that together do not equal the full meal.

Ash Wednesday last fell on 14 February in 1945, before the secular observance of St Valentine’s Day became popular. It is due to fall on the date again in 2024 and also 2029.